The USA: Superpower in the decadence of capitalism, today the epicentre of social decomposition. Part II

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In Part I of this article, we said in the introduction that "The collapse of the Eastern Bloc marked the beginning of the final phase in the evolution of capitalism: social decomposition. With this phase also begins the decline of American leadership and the slide of the bourgeois system into chaos and barbarity…. The second part of this article will deal with the period from 1990 to today. In 30 years of the decomposition of bourgeois society, the United States has become a factor of aggravation of chaos, and its world leadership will not be recovered whatever the Biden team proclaims in its speeches. It is not a question of wishes; it is the characteristics of this final phase of capitalism which determines the tendencies it is obliged to follow, leading inexorably into the abyss if the proletariat cannot put an end to it through world communist revolution”[1].

The Biden administration has now been in power for 8 months and the difficulties of the American bourgeoisie in reversing the effects of decomposition on all levels have clearly been confirmed: Hurricane Ida wreaking havoc in New Orleans, the fires ravaging entire regions in California… in short, the bourgeoisie is unable to cope with the consequences of climate change; trade war with China affects the American consumers themselves; meanwhile politicians of both parties are more concerned with defending their petty interests than building a unity that responds to the needs of national capital; violence on the streets continues to rise, opioid and fentanyl consumption is breaking records and destroying lives; groups promoting the most outlandish conspiracy theories continue to flourish; and the  “world’s greatest democracy” has still not recovered from the political fiasco of the 2020 election, what Trump calls the great "electoral fraud" . Now we must add that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in disarray, abandoning its allies to their fate, is a further sign that the US will never regain its place as the world's gendarme. Losing that status will cause further divisions within the American bourgeoisie, and at the world level there will be a growing chaos in imperialist relations where localised wars, disorder and every man for himself will be at the centre of the infernal dynamics of a system that is rotting on its feet.

Therefore, our framework of analysis insists that “…. it is vital to highlight the fundamental distinction between the elements of decomposition which have infected capitalism since the beginning of the century and the generalised decomposition which is infecting the system today, and which can only get worse. Here again, quite apart from the strictly quantitative aspect, the phenomenon of social decomposition has today reached such a breadth and depth that it has taken on a new and unique quality, revealing decadent capitalism’s entry into a new and final phase of its history: the phase where decomposition becomes a decisive, if not the decisive factor in social evolution”[2].

US decline: social decomposition accelerates the chaos

The implosion of the USSR and the demise of the Eastern bloc brought about the automatic dislocation of the Western bloc. The US had to provoke the Persian Gulf War in 1991, making Saddam Hussein believe that it would not “meddle in Arab affairs”: Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Americans organised the “grand coalition of the International Community” to punish Iraq. But the central objective was to align countries behind the American flag, to slap the table and show who would impose discipline in the world from then on.

“The war in the Gulf shows that, faced with the tendency towards generalised chaos which is specific to decomposition and which has been considerably accelerated by the Eastern bloc's collapse, capitalism has no other way out in its attempt to hold together its different components, than to impose the iron strait-jacket of military force. In this sense, the methods it uses to try to contain an increasingly bloody state of chaos are themselves a factor in the aggravation of military barbarism into which capitalism is plunging.”[3] This was the high point of American leadership after the end of the “bipolar era”: after “Desert Storm” the failures have piled up one after the other and US domination has been growing weaker ever since.

“At the beginning of the 21st century, the spread of decomposition manifested itself above all in the explosion of every man for himself and chaos on the imperialist level. The attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon by Al Qaeda on 11 September 2001, and the unilateral military response of the Bush administration, further opened the Pandora's box of decomposition: with the attack and invasion of Iraq in 2003 in defiance of international conventions and organisations and without taking into account the opinion of its main ‘allies’, the world's leading power went from being the gendarme of world order to the principal agent of every man for himself and chaos. The occupation of Iraq and then the civil war in Syria (2011) would powerfully stir up the imperialist every man for himself, not only in the Middle East but all over the world. They also accentuated the declining trend of US leadership, while Russia began coming back to the forefront, especially through a ‘disruptive’ imperialist role in Syria, and China was rapidly rising as a challenger to the US superpower.[4]

While in the 1990s the US managed to maintain its status as the leading world power, thanks in large part to its ability to present itself as the victor of the Cold War, Bush Senior's “New World Order” was to be a euphemism for disorder and chaos. Indeed, the beginning of the 21st century would already mark the USA’s open historical decline. This is expressed in its inability to stabilise the areas into which it sticks its nose. It is clear in the case of Palestine-Israel, but also in the case of Iran and of NATO's inability to respond to Russia's policy in the Ukraine, its policy of sanctions and “maximum pressure” not producing the expected results.

“In 1992 Washington adopted a very clear, conscious orientation to guide its imperialist policy in the post-Cold War period, based on ‘a fundamental commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the United States has no peer competitor. No coalition of great powers without the United States will be allowed to achieve hegemony’ (Prof. G.J. Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct. 2002, p.49). This policy seeks to prevent the rise of any power in Europe or Asia that could challenge American prominence and serve as a pole of regroupment for the formation of a new imperialist bloc. This was initially spelled out in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance policy statement drafted by Rumsfeld in1992, during the last year of the first Bush administration which clearly established this new grand strategy”.[5]

Today we can confirm the resounding failure of this orientation: there is a clear rise of Russia but above all of China in the imperialist arena. China is already the main rival of the USA, although it does not yet possess the military capability of the Americans. The “Stalinist capitalists” have no choice: either they arm themselves to defend their economic expansion or they will go under, enclosed behind the wall of containment that the Americans are seeking to build around them. The danger represented by China continues to grow and threaten the privileges of the USA as the only world superpower. The trade war has been declared, and with it the accompanying military mobilisation will be factors of crisis, disagreements and tensions that will inevitably involve other imperialist pawns.

China’s rise did not cause any problems for more than 25 years. All the industrialised countries, starting with the USA and the Europeans, rushed to invest in China, to set up their factories, since there they could count on very cheap labour and almost no fiscal and environmental requirements. This rise of China cannot be understood without analysing it within the framework of the conditions created by the entry of capitalism into its terminal phase: social decomposition[6]. What we are interested in here is highlighting how American policy is devoting more and more effort to containing the Chinese Dragon. The dynamics of decadent capitalism lead inexorably to war as a permanent form of existence. The end of the imperialist blocs and the end of the Cold War did not mean an “era of peace”, a “New World Order”. The efforts of the US, as the leading economic-military power, had to be directed towards safeguarding capitalism as a whole, the interests of American capitalism coinciding with the defence of that “world order”. And yet its “lone ranger” style military adventures have only brought more chaos and instability. Afghanistan is a dramatic example of what American decline entails, and along with it the general decline of a rotting system.

Afghanistan: a sign of American decline and the expansion of every man for himself

20 years of invasion, more than 2 trillion dollars (300 million dollars per day!) - none of this investment was compensated by oil, lithium or heroin. Wars no longer have an economic rationale. The US exit from Afghanistan under an image of stampede and humiliating flight is the most concrete example of the quagmire in which “American foreign policy” finds itself. Central Asia is an important geopolitical space and the fact that after 20 years American objectives have not been achieved is not due to the incompetence of the Afghan army, as Biden cynically put it; it is primarily due to years of instability, increasing chaos, misery, the strengthening of “warlords”. To bring order to this chaos is mission impossible, since decomposition, with its tendency to every man for himself, is an irreversible phenomenon.

This open American failure in Afghanistan will accelerate centrifugal processes that have been going on for more than 30 years:

- Increasing mistrust of America’s “allies” regarding the USA’s ability to guarantee the fulfilment of its objectives. Thus, NATO members are already inclined to keep the US out of European interests. From NATO's inception, European allies accepted lining up behind the Americans for military protection against the threat from the Soviet Union. While Russia remains a latent danger to Europe, it is not of the significance it once was. Trump insisted that Europeans should shoulder more of NATO's costs, which meant that the Americans are increasingly unable to economically and militarily sustain this Cold War legacy. Today, American leadership is so frayed that it does not inspire confidence even from its European allies. The recent formation of an agreement between the USA, Australia and Britain (AUKUS) scuppered France's deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, and this is already pitting the European Union against the Americans. For the European bourgeoisies, emancipation from American tutelage is already possible, not because of their increased military and economic attributes, but because of the historical decline of the USA.

- All the small regional imperialist sharks will be emboldened to openly challenge the USA. Iran’s inclusion in the “Shanghai Agreement Organisation” is intended to prevent US military access to the region. China and Russia are the main parties to such an agreement. But the same will happen in the other powers of Central Asia and the Middle East. The tendency towards every man for himself is going to grow, and with it the fickleness of each country will increase the number of endless local wars. The Russians already have one foot in Syria; Turkey feels it can challenge Europe, read NATO, and advance its interests in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the vacuum left by the US will be filled by other powers. It is already known that China and Russia will make deals with the Taliban to relaunch the “New Silk Road” Although Russia does not support the Chinese project, it will intervene to protect its own borders and the Central Asian countries under its influence from the imminent spread of chaos in the region. The US cannot withdraw without establishing a rearguard that will at least allow it to continue to intervene. They will keep their military bases in the region and from there they will continue to stoke the fire.

- The divisions within the American bourgeoisie will be exacerbated. The exit from Afghanistan had been planned since Obama; Trump signed the agreements to leave on 1 May this year and Biden is implementing it in a thoroughly chaotic manner. The loss of its place as the world's leading power will accentuate the fractures: how will the US maintain a presence in the Middle East and Central Asia so as not to leave the field open to other powers? What will America's policy towards its European allies be after Afghanistan? Will Israel be safe? How to contain the rise of China after this debacle? How to confront Russia? All these questions will not be the subject of unanimous decisions within the American bourgeoisie; on the contrary, they will accelerate internal divisions in a context where populism will continue to influence American policy. Everyone will try to advance their interests, from factions like Black Rock, Soros and company to other factions linked to Christian fundamentalism, white supremacists and groupings like the Cato Institute and the Tea Party Movement, all sorts of think tanks and civilian militias that will try to impose their ideologies at the expense of a national vision of capital, which will greatly favour the fragmentation of American political life.

Populism and the tendency to lose control of the electoral circus

“This general tendency for the bourgeoisie to lose control of its own policies was one of the primary factors in the Eastern bloc’s collapse; this collapse can only accentuate the tendency:

  • because of the resulting aggravation of the economic crisis;
  • because of the disintegration of the Western bloc which is implied by the disappearance of its rival;
  • because the temporary disappearance of the perspective of world war will exacerbate the rivalries between different bourgeois factions (between national factions especially, but also between cliques within national states).”[7]

The erosion of the capacity of the bourgeoisie to manage its political game began forcefully at the end of the Cold War and the entry into the phase of the decomposition of capitalism: we are talking about the beginning of the 1990s. Although there were already phenomena that announced this tendency (Ros Perot’s candidacy, Clinton's impeachment, etc.) it was in 2000, with the elections that gave victory to Bush Junior, that this tendency towards the loss of control of the political game began to appear in a spectacular way. The “stolen election” showed that the world's example of democracy was beginning to look increasingly threadbare[8]. Al Gore won the national presidential election by more than 500,000 votes, but the decision was made 36 days later and it was Florida, governed by Bush’s brother, that decided the election. The archaic American electoral system proved that it is not the popular vote of the citizen that decides. Democratic ideology received a major dent.

Both the Bush and the Gore factions went to the lengths of defending their own appetites and interests to the detriment of a global vision of American capital. Nixon in 1960 took a different attitude and understood the nature of the electoral circus and the needs of capital at the time. He did not impeach Kennedy, despite the fraud in Chicago, and all factions put aside their divergences to form a united front. What happened in the 2000 election was already the expression of the internal divisions within the bourgeoisie where the centrifugal tendencies were beginning to show their seriousness.

Far-right forces, especially Christian fundamentalism, began to appear on the American political scene. Initially as a base for the Republican Party in Reagan's time, they have now gained strength in the so-called “rural states”, a trend that has been fueled by increasing chaos and a lack of hope for the future. One concrete example of this phenomenon was the emergence of the Tea Party, which would be an important actor in torpedoing the Obama administration, accusing the President of being “Marxist” and a “Muslim agent”. The Tea Party was not only nourished by Christian fundamentalism, but also by white supremacists, anti-immigrant activists, militia members, etc., a whole cocktail that infiltrated the Republican Party and threatened the stability of the political system, united around a slogan of being against the “establishment in Washington”. These were already clear signs of the spread of populist ideology, an ideology of decomposition.

“- The rise of populism is not the desired political choice of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie’. On the contrary, it is a confirmation of the tendency towards ‘an increasing loss of control by the ruling class over its political apparatus.

- Its real cause is the inability of the proletariat to put forward its own response, its own alternative to the crisis of capitalism. Into this vacuum comes the loss of trust in the official institutions of society, that are no longer able to protect it, and it grows stronger and stronger, giving rise to a loss of confidence in the future and the tendency to look to the past and to hunt for scapegoats to blame for the catastrophe.

- There is a common element present in most advanced countries: the profound loss of confidence in the ‘elites’ (...) due to their inability to restore health to the economy and to stem the steady rise in unemployment and poverty’. This revolt against the political leaders ‘(…) can in no way lead to an alternative perspective to capitalism.

- The populist reaction is to want to replace the existing hypocritical pseudo-equality with an ‘honest’ and open system of legal discrimination. (…) The logic of this argumentation is that, in the absence of a longer-term perspective of growth for the national economy, the living conditions of the natives can only be more or less stabilised by discriminating against everybody else.”[9] 

Trump's coming to power did not mark the beginning of populism, nor does Biden’s victory mark its end. Trump makes official the enormous difficulty of the bourgeoisie of the world's leading power to “manage” its electoral circus and contain the centrifugal tendencies that are growing within it. “The US bourgeoisie's crisis did not come about as a result of Trump's election. In 2007, the report already noted the crisis of the American bourgeoisie by explaining: It is first and foremost this objective situation - a situation that excludes any long-term strategy on the part of the remaining dominant power - that made it possible to elect and re-elect such a corrupt regime, with a pious and stupid President at its head [Bush junior]. (...), the Bush Administration is nothing more than a reflection of the dead-end situation of US imperialism However, the victory of a populist president (Trump) known for making unpredictable decisions not only brought to light the crisis of the US bourgeoisie, but also highlighted the growing instability of the political apparatus of the US bourgeoisie and the exacerbation of internal tensions”[10].

The 2020 elections were surrounded by instability and sharpening internal strife in the US political apparatus. Anti-racist demonstrations and the Black Lives Matter movement had a big impact on political life, militias demonstrated openly, Republicans and Democrats also displayed their divisions, and the American bourgeoisie struggled to impose a more accountable faction in power. In fact, allegations of fraud permeated the election from beginning to end and democracy was further discredited: President Trump himself called it a “huge fraud”. The bourgeoisie tried to recover from the “stolen election” of 2000 but Trump and Trumpism revived the idea of “fraud”, and the democratic system on which the exploitation of labour by capital is based has been weakened again. This fragility and the growth of fragmentation in the life of American society will only increase, despite the fact that the most responsible factions of the American bourgeoisie are trying, with “Sleepy Joe” at the head, to counteract this irreversible dynamic.

Militarism: a cancer for capital

The implosion of the Soviet Union at the end of 1989 brought the Cold War to an end. The root cause of the Soviet debacle lay in the impossibility of sustaining an arms race with the West. The USSR’s economy was not even close to matching the power of the US. However, as the head of the so-called “socialist” bloc, the USSR was obliged to compete militarily to hold onto that position. Ultimately this economic aberration, military spending, would bleed it dry financially and it crumbled under the relentless battering ram of the crisis.

“Today, armaments crystallise the nec plus ultra of technological perfection. The fabrication of sophisticated systems of destruction has become the symbol of a modem high-performance economy. However, these technological 'marvels', which have just shown their murderous efficiency in the Middle East, are, from the standpoint of production, of the economy, a gigantic waste. Weapons, unlike most other commodities, have the particular feature that once produced they are ejected from the productive cycle of capital. They serve neither to enlarge or replace constant capital (unlike machines, for example) nor to renew the labor power of the workers who set this constant capital in motion. Not only do weapons do nothing but destroy - they are already a destruction of capital in themselves, a sterilisation of wealth. When the USA, for example, announces that the defense budget represents 6 % of GNP, that means that 6% of the annually produced wealth has been destroyed. This 6% has to be withdrawn from overall production, which means that military production should be subtracted from annual growth, not added on as the economists do.” [11] Consumer goods and production goods can be integrated into the cycle of capital accumulation, but military production has the sole destiny of literally going up in smoke. From the point of view of global capital it is the pure and simple sterilisation of accumulated labour. Decadent capitalism cannot avoid the headlong flight into this process.

The American economy is under increasing pressure in terms of military spending, which is now three times that of its closest rival, China. The military budget in 2019 was around 716 billion dollars! This tendency of capitalism to spend more and more on armaments is not an option, it is an expression of the very life of this system in decadence and its blind drive towards war. China is already caught up in this dynamic and the US will do everything to prevent it from emerging as a rival on equal terms. With this example we can see that the isolationist illusions of American capital in the 1920s and 30s, about growing economically away from “European problems”, was a utopia: involvement in war under capitalism is not an option but an imperative. This is why the isolationist faction gradually lost ground and dissolved organically after the Second World War, after which they remained present but no longer carried any real weight. Although Trumpist populism tried to champion this faction, the reality is that the logic of capitalism inevitably leads towards war. Capitalism mobilises the entire productive apparatus for the sake of maintaining and constantly improving its military power[12]. This explains why the US has lost its global economic competitiveness. Many American companies depend on investments via the Pentagon (Boeing, MacDonell-Douglas, Texas Instruments, General Electric, Chrysler, etc.). These “investments” demand more and more dollars, so that the American debt has already reached 28 trillion dollars, i.e. 130% of its GDP. It is therefore no coincidence that the military sphere is increasingly colonising the state structure and will influence the increase in military budgets at the expense of other sectors. The difficulties and divisions that corrode the supposed unity of the bourgeoisie cannot but increase in this area, and internal strife will certainly intensify.

A further result of the cancerous growth of militarism is that the “civilian” economy – infrastructure, health, education etc – are increasingly neglected. This can only blunt the competitiveness of US capital on the world market, forcing the Biden administration to push through a major “modernisation” programme in this sphere. And this in turn will help pile up the national debt!

Internal divisions are set to increase

America's domestic front is experiencing worsening conflicts and divisions. The major parties are losing credibility and dissension and fractures are becoming more and more apparent. The Democratic Party was not unified after the loss of candidate Sanders to both Hilary Clinton and Biden for the presidency. The “socialist” wing of the Democratic Party is not very happy, so the “Squad” (Ocasio Cortez and company) will be the “critical wing” against Biden if he does not implement his “social, green and progressive proposals”. Let's not forget that there are also divisions between the Squad and Nancy Pelosi. The Squad has accused her of being a “racist” and there are serious divergences on immigration policy. Added to this is the fact that the population did not vote for Biden but against Trump, reflecting the weak social base of the Democrats. On the other hand, the Trump supporters are very significant and Trump has become the second highest polling presidential candidate in history, only after Biden. The Republican Party, for its part, is also facing internal feuds. Bush Jr., a distinguished member of the Republican Party, has unleashed criticism of Trump since the last election when he said openly about the takeover of the Capitol on 6 January this year: “This is how results are contested in banana republics”.

During Trump's four years in office, the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, slid further to the extreme right. Trump stoked racism, failed to condemn conspiracists like the QAnon group, flattered white supremacists and condemned the BLM movement as “communist”. Gorge Soros was accused of financing the BLM, the Antifas and the caravans of migrants coming from Central America. On the other hand, after the events of 6 January many Republicans defected from the ranks of Trump supporters. The GOP was vandalised by populism and American democracy is increasingly losing its ability to control electoral outcomes. Both major parties have lost internal unity and credibility. In the last election, Biden's programme was basically empty and only inspired distrust, while the Republicans and Trump based their campaign on fear-mongering. The threat of open confrontation was present throughout the 2020 electoral atmosphere. This social tendency towards the development of centrifugal forces will not change with Biden: his promise of “national reconciliation” and the “restoration of democracy” will come to nothing in the face of an accelerating social decomposition.

The USA is the country with the highest number of Nobel Prizes in science, the country of Silicon Valley. It is the world centre of tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. However, in the last 30 years there has been a resurgence of all kinds of backward and fundamentalist ideologies. For example, during the election of Bush Jr, out of the 60 million votes he got, 20 million came from the right-wing Christian fundamentalists. These elements do not vote on the basis of economic issues or the imperialist orientation of the USA, they vote on the advice of local clerics based generally on issues such as gay marriage or abortion. “Creationist” theories continue to have an enormous influence, even at the level of official education in several states. The alarming rise of religious fundamentalism, whether in Christian, Islamic, or Jewish variants, is a consequence of social decomposition, representing a false response to a society without hope, a world characterized without a perspective for the future, by increasing despair, and fear.”[13]

Internal divisions become even more dangerous when immersed in a “culture of violence”. In the US the burden of violence has a long history, yet groups that live around promoting and using violence as a form of expression have revived and even increased: the KKK still exists, QAnon gained enormous momentum under the Trump administration, Proud Boys, Boogalo Boys, New Black Panthers, The Oath Keepers[14], etc. There are over 200 organised militias armed to the teeth. “Militias have been involved and active in the US for decades or centuries in some cases. But what we're seeing now is absolutely unprecedented in US history," Paul Goldenberg, a member of the US Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, tells BBC World”[15] The scenario is an explosive breeding ground in a divided society. Trump was flirting with these militias and told the Proud Boys to “wait” and then gave the “no surrender” signal. The assault on the Capitol cannot be understood without the acquiescence of populism and Trump in particular. In the end Trump ended up unconvincingly condemning the Capitol invasion, forced to protect his own skin.

The ideal complement to this aspect of the culture of violence is the enormous weight of state terror. If there is one country where state terror is experienced on a daily basis, it is the USA. We are not only referring to police brutality which in this country has a sinister legacy; there are other aspects such as the permanent crushing of any expression of proletarian struggle, persecutions and surveillance of everything that smells of “subversion”. There is a long history of American bosses hiring armed thugs to put down strikes; the “Red Scare” after 1919 was the reaction of US capital to the fear that the post-war revolutionary wave would spread to America, while McCarthyism was the expression of anti-Communist policy during the Cold War. Today there is already talk of a “new McCarthyism” that now controls the social networks and "alternative media": in October 2018 there was a purge on Twitter and Facebook of sites that “did not meet the requirements”. “During this month of October, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media sources run by American users. Among those removed during the coordinated purge were popular portals scrutinising police abuse and American interventionism, such as ‘The Free Thought Project’, ‘Anti-Media’" and ‘Cop Block’", along with the pages of journalists such as Rachel Blevins."[16] It is only the beginning and they are still on target with the idea of maintaining a huge apparatus dedicated to stamping out any “Masonic-Judeo-Communist” conspiracy theories (the unifying basis of all white supremacist groups). The suppression of ideas permeates the whole social environment and the working class is certainly not spared. It is no coincidence that Labour Day, May Day, is celebrated all over the world to commemorate the deeds of the “Chicago Martyrs”... except in the USA! It is not out of shame for the bourgeoisie’s criminal past; no, it is a pure and simple manipulation, aimed at burying everything that can awaken an idea about the class struggle. The state in the “the land of the free” exerts an omnipresent control over groups and individuals that is the envy of the most abject totalitarianisms. In this mission, social networks increasingly play a central role.

After the Afghanistan fiasco, the loss of the status of world gendarme, the worsening of the economic crisis and the trade war with China, several areas of conflict are now opening up: how to deal with “global and domestic terrorism”, what to do about an infrastructure that needs renovation, what to do about technological change, the climate crisis and immigration, which continues to increase, and so on and so forth. All these accelerating issues will not contribute to unity; on the contrary, they are factors that will exacerbate the already existing cleavages

Historic factors behind the tendency towards social fragmentation

As we noted in Part I of this article, “The long process of the incorporation of the States of the Union began in 1787 up to the last additions in 1959. Alaska was brought from the Russians in 1867, but it was only in January 1959 that Alaska became the 49th state and Hawaii became the 50th in August of the same year. We're talking about more than 170 years, a period during which the territory extended up to the conquest of the ‘final frontier’, that's to say up to the Pacific coast of California.” A long process that began in the ascendancy of capitalism and culminated in the midst of the period of decadence, after World War II. This element has always posed a problem for "national unity": the “American Union” is a huge jigsaw puzzle where each piece always tries to defend its specificity. The independence claims of the “Republic of Texas” or the divisions between highly productive states like California and the more agricultural states are very familiar. Each state also has its own electoral authority with its own laws, which is why the archaic Electoral College model has shattered the democratic illusion of “one man one vote”: just remember the presidential elections of 2000 and 2020 (see above).

An additional problem arises with the question of how the US has constructed a so-called “National Identity”. “The esteemed Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington’s 2004 book, Who Are We? was an early expression of an emerging national identity crisis, in which he expressly worried about the unique challenges posed by mass Hispanic immigration. Whereas others saw continued immigration as an integral and important part of the American story - its supposed history of openness, inclusiveness and diversity - Huntington worried about a loss of national identity, cultural Balkanisation and the corrosion of civic life. Today, these debates around the meaning of ‘Americanness’ have only accelerated and deepened in an increasingly hostile tone, with Trump taking the rhetoric on one side to levels of aggression that many in the media deem beyond the norms of bourgeois politics.”[17]

Capitalism is utterly incapable of generating a unity of the diverse; its essence is division, competition and exclusion. While this is a problem for the system as a whole, American society has a very acute problem. Migration was the basis of its constitution as a nation, yet today migrants are seen as a "threat to American values”. All the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the hatred against "migrant invaders", reflects not only the inability of capital to absorb cheap labour, but is also based on the “fear of the Other”. Social decomposition increases these irrational ideologies. For example, the WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) see their preponderance in the state and social life threatened. The idyllic “National Identity” is a mere illusion linked exclusively to the needs of the capitalist state. In the USA, minorities are excluded, racism segregates, migrants are rejected and hated. For example, in the USA there are about 60 million migrants from Mexico, but only 35 million are registered in the census, i.e. “officially” more than 25 million are “phantom citizens”. The same is true for all migrants from Latin America and the rest of the world. The generation of an “American feeling” that is a reference point for identity is impossible in a fractured society that excludes millions of people from official life.

The “culture of gun ownership” should also be added. Historically the USA expanded its “Frontier” in a violent way, and gun ownership was an “individual right” that was enshrined in the constitution. Today we can see that the great western democracy has more guns than inhabitants: the guns circulating throughout the nation are estimated at an average of 4 guns per inhabitant. The powerful National Rifle Association lobby is one of the most influential in American government, whether it is a Democratic or Republican administration. Biden's promise to limit indiscriminate gun sales will be met with resistance from the NRA and the US military complex. What are the social consequences of living in such an “armed democracy”? Is it a practice that allows the individual to “defend his property and defend his own”? Behind this thoroughly bourgeois right lies the stale ideology of capitalism that pits one individual against another: “your rights end where mine begin”. This congenital division of capitalism has begun to express itself violently in American social life. There is no shortage of daily massacres, shootings in schools, bars, shopping centres, etc. Crime is on the rise and it is the “American democracy” that has the highest percentage of prisoners per capita. Add to this the increase in the number of militias, the lack of confidence in the future, the divisions brought about by populism, and so on. We are faced with a breeding ground for the aggravation of social breakdown, and in a violent and bloody way.

Another aspect that cannot be ignored is the aspect of immigration. Although the US has been built on the basis of migration, the decline of capitalism has made this phenomenon a real problem. While the two great oceans that surround it “protect” it against the massive migratory flow, the border with Mexico is a real Achilles’ heel. Trump’s unfinished Wall has not inhibited the flow, and migrants from all over the world use Mexico as a gateway. “Mexico recorded the arrival of 147,000 undocumented migrants between January and August, triple the number in 2020, while US authorities detained some 212,000 migrants in July alone, the first time the 200,000 mark has been crossed in 21 years.”[18]

Biden's policy is no different from that of his predecessors. He promised to be “more humane” but the reality is that mass deportations continue, the border is closed “for health reasons” and the border with Mexico is swarming with undocumented immigrants from Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, Central America, etc. There is a real humanitarian crisis presented as a “migration” crisis. Job opportunities and stability do not exist in Latin America, so the flight to the USA is a last hope for millions of people, a hope that runs up against a Wall, gangs of traffickers, state forces - until hope dissolves into tears and the American dream becomes a cruel and bloody nightmare. Migrants who are lucky enough to cross the border and enter the US are mostly condemned to segregation, begging or to join the ranks of the homeless who are lost in violent and marginalised neighbourhoods where drugs are “the daily bread”. How far are the aspirations of the early American pioneers and settlers from these masses of desperate people on a suicidal path!

Social life, infrastructure...the historical decline of capitalism

The lack of prospects for a society is dramatically reflected on all levels of political and ideological life:

  • “The development of terrorism, or the seizure of hostages, as methods of warfare between states, to the detriment of the “laws” that capitalism established in the past to “regulate” the conflicts between different ruling class factions;
  • the constant increase in criminality, insecurity, and urban violence, as well as the fact that more and more children are falling prey to this violence and to prostitution;
  • the development of nihilism, despair, and suicide amongst young people (expressed for example in the punk slogan “no future” and the urban riots in Britain), and of the hatred and xenophobia infecting the “skinheads” and “hooligans” who take the opportunity of sporting events to terrorise the population at large;
  • the tidal waves of drug addiction, which has now become a mass phenomenon and a powerful element in the corruption of states and financial organisms; sparing no corner of the planet, especially prevalent among young people, it is less and less a flight into fantasy and illusion, but rather ever closer to madness and suicide;
  • the profusion of sects, the renewal of the religious spirit including in the advanced countries, the rejection of rational, coherent thought even amongst certain “scientists”; a phenomenon which dominates the media with their idiotic shows and mind-numbing advertising;
  • the invasion of the same media by the spectacle of violence, horror, blood, massacres, even in programmes designed for children.”[19]

Unfortunately, the reality of American life dramatically confirms what we said 30 years ago. This is not to boast, it is simply to show the correctness of our marxist framework of analysis.

This summer marked 50 years since Richard Nixon declared war on drugs: at the height of the pandemic there were 87,000 drug overdose deaths in one year, mostly from opioids. The pious Biden proposes not to “imprison, but to treat” addicts, but there is no budget to be found and social life is out of control. The black market is flooded with painkillers and other drugs made from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which are more potent but also more addictive. The American health care system launched a “campaign against pain”, but it was a criminal way of making opioid pain prescriptions legal, and big pharma gets its slice of this sad pie. African American and Latino communities have been singled out as the main consumers and traffickers. However, the reality is surpassing all predictions; the numbers are rising and today the American authorities are already talking about “a public health crisis” or “opioid crisis” to refer to the increase in addictions and the rise in overdose deaths. Capitalism is intoxicating an American society that is sinking into despair and daily anguish.

Some would think that living in the US, the world's leading power, would be the closest thing to paradise on earth. To the data provided above, we must add the terrible state of American infrastructure, described as “mediocre” and “precarious” by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE): most of the highways and airports were built between 1950 and 1970, and not a single American airport is in the Top 20. Trump proposed to invest 1.5 trillion dollars, of which only 200 billion would come from the federal budget, but this pharaonic sum does not even cover a third of the needs. With Biden, things are no different. Of his proposal of 2 trillion dollars for infrastructure, only half has been tested. The renovation of the “arteries” for the movement of goods will be slow and deterioration is proceeding faster than regeneration. The most significant of these can be seen in the Dantesque image of the city of Detroit: an emblematic city, once the cradle of the automobile industry, it is now a city in ruins and its inhabitants have been reduced by half. 

The Covid-19 pandemic only confirmed a reality that had been brewing for at least three decades. Trump's criminal negligence in downplaying the pandemic, ignoring his scientific advisors and failing to immediately implement containment measures, led to the pandemic exploding and the US becoming one of the worst affected countries. The mass vaccination undertaken by Biden has limited the effects; we say limited because variants such as Delta and Mu have again increased the number of those hospitalised. Among the central countries, it is the most powerful of them, the US superpower, which is suffering most from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis: the highest absolute number of infections and deaths in the world, a deplorable health situation, a ‘vandal’ presidential administration that has catastrophically mismanaged the pandemic and internationally isolated the country from its alliances, an economy in great difficulty, a president who has undermined the credibility of elections, called for a march on parliament, deepened divisions within the country and fuelled mistrust of science and rational data, described as ‘fake news’. Today, the US is the epicentre of decomposition [20] We have also seen that the world-wide climate crisis is hitting the US very hard, particularly in western states like California and Oregon which have seen a succession of wildfires, drought and floods. In sum, we are witnessing the inability of the bourgeoisie of the world's leading power to cope, in a united way, with the effects of the decay of its own system.

Conclusion

Both domestically and internationally, we are witnessing the historic decline of the USA. Decline as a model nation where the “American dream” is beginning to turn into the “American nightmare”; where the “American lifestyle” and “American values” reflect a worsening of living conditions; where the American working class is bearing the brunt of the effects. It is not a question of Afro-Americans or Latinos, it is not a racial question as the media want to make it appear. There is a much more serious question which is being hidden: the exploited class (farm labourers, wage earners, industrial workers, etc.) is made up of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc. and the bourgeoisie does everything to hide this reality and avoid any in-depth reflection on the fate of capitalism and on who can lead humanity out of this quagmire.

The decline of the US as the world's gendarme is already well underway. The exit from Afghanistan is an expression of an acceleration of a phenomenon that is irreversible for the Americans. Instead of stabilising the region, the Americans have accelerated its slide into disorder. Central Asia will experience a real acceleration of instability and chaos. This weakness of the US will encourage centrifugal forces and indiscipline to spread across the globe, which is already full of localised wars. The trade war with China may sooner or later lead to more direct confrontations, although China is not moving in that direction for the time being (Taiwan, for example, will be a decisive thermometer in this evolution). It bears repeating emphatically the US will never regain its lost status. Its role as a world gendarme and its supremacy as a power in all areas of capitalist life have come to an end. The end of the “American century” is not posed in absolute terms: the American bourgeoisie will try to counteract this tendency, but it is irreversible. In this fall it will drag humanity into an endless barbarism if the world proletariat does not block this road to the abyss.

Marsan

 

[6]The stages of China's rise are inseparable from the history of the imperialist blocs and their disappearance in 1989: the position of the communist left affirming the ‘impossibility of any emergence of new industrialised nations  in the period of decadence and the condemnation of states ‘which failed to succeed in their ‘industrial take-off’ before the First World War to stagnate in underdevelopment, or to preserve a chronic backwardness compared to the countries that hold the upper hand’ was valid in the period from 1914 to 1989. It was the straitjacket of the organisation of the world into two opposing imperialist blocs (permanent between 1945 and 1989) in preparation for the world war that prevented any major disruption of the hierarchy between powers. China's rise began with American aid rewarding its imperialist shift to the United States in 1972. It continued decisively after the disappearance of the blocs in 1989. China appears to be the main beneficiary of ‘globalisation’ following its accession to the WTO in 2001 when it became the world's workshop and the recipient of Western relocations and investments, finally becoming the world's second largest economic power. It took the unprecedented circumstances of the historical period of decomposition to allow China to rise, without which it would not have happened. China's power bears all the stigma of terminal capitalism: it is based on the over-exploitation of the proletarian labour force, the unbridled development of the war economy through the national programme of “military-civil fusion” and is accompanied by the catastrophic destruction of the environment, while national cohesion is based on the police control of the masses subjected to the political education of the One Party and the fierce repression of the populations of Uighur Muslims and Tibet. In fact, China is only a giant metastasis of the generalised militaristic cancer of the entire capitalist system: its military production is developing at a frenetic pace, its defence budget has increased six-fold in 20 years and has been ranked second in the world since 2010”. International Review 164, Resolution on the International Situation (2019): Imperialist conflicts; life of the bourgeoisie, economic crisis | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

[7] Theses on decomposition, Thesis 10,

[8]A popular e-mail parody of the election began circulating throughout internet asking what the media would say if in an African nation, there was a controversial election in which the winning candidate was the son of a previous president, who had previously served as director of the state security forces (CIA), and where the victory was determined by a disputed counting of the ballots in a province governed by a brother of the presidential candidate”. Election of George W. Bush | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

[10] (Report on the impact of the decomposition on the political life of the bourgeoisie (23rd ICC Congress), International Review no. 164. The section in bold is from The Impact of Decomposition on the Life of the Bourgeoisie”, an unpublished report to the 17th ICC Congress.

[11] International Review 65, Where are we in the crisis?: Economic crisis and militarism | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

[12] “To develop the atomic bomb, the US state mobilized all the resources of science and put them at the military's disposal. Two billion dollars were devoted to the Manhattan Project, set up by that great humanist Roosevelt. Every university in the country joined in. Directly or indirectly, all the greatest physicists from Einstein to Oppenheimer were involved, including six Nobel prizewinners. This gigantic mobilization of every scientific resource for war expresses a general characteristic of decadent capitalism. State capitalism, whether openly totalitarian or draped in the democratic flag, colonizes and militarizes the whole of science. Under the reign of capitalism, science lives and develops through and for war. This reality has not ceased to get worse since 1945”. International Review 83 Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Lies of the Bourgeoisie | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

[14] The Oath Keepers were formed in 2009 and describe themselves as "a non-partisan association of active and serving military, police and first responders who pledge to uphold the oath taken by all military and police to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic’".

[15] BBC World News, 21 September 2020.

[16] Nuevo Macartismo. Telesurtv.net. 2018

[17] World Revolution 384, Trump versus the Squad

[18] BBC World News, 22.9,21

[19] International Review 107, Theses on Decomposition

[20] Report on the pandemic and the development of decomposition, 24th International Congress 2021, International Review no. 167. 

Rubric: 

Decline of US imperialism